As hunters we are all concerned and want to understand what is going on with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). With the cool in the air, hunting season is defiantly on everyone’s mind. With that there has been a lot of information that has come out recently to clarify and update the public on new regulations and to provide guidance for the hunting season regarding Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) including Executive Order EO 23-30. As a hunter myself, I have attended the meetings and read the executive orders but that doesn’t always make it super clear. So here is a breakdown of the information I have gained from visiting with law enforcement officers and officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
No baiting (feeding) is allowed within the CWD management Zone, including baiting with corn or other grains/feed and the placement of salt/mineral products. This includes feeders or feeding on the ground, but this does not include food plots. If you are illegally baiting deer, it will be considered a 2nd degree misdemeanor, punishable up to a $500 fine and 6 months in jail. There are no current or future plans to charge a fee for a baiting permit. According to the comments at the public meeting on 9/19/23, baiting is something we can control. Deer are social animals that will naturally interact in the wild, and hunters cannot control that natural interaction. Yes, deer are still interacting at food plots, but the interaction is less concentrated than at a feeder for example. Not baiting is a useful tool for the early stages of CWD management. Food plots are not perfect, but it is a reduced risk and a compromise. This baiting rules only applies to the Management Zone above, not to the expanded monitoring zone seen below.
There were no changes made to total bag limits. Each hunter is still allowed 5 total deer, two of which can be antlerless. Deer that test positive do not count toward an individual’s bag limit. If you harvest a deer, decide to get it tested, and it comes back positive, you can surrender the positive deer the harvest to FWC, and that deer will not count toward your bag limits.
Movement of Harvested Deer
Deer that were harvested in Florida outside the CWD management zone can be brought into the zone without being deboned/processed. They can also come in and go back out of the zone after harvest (example: I kill a deer outside the zone, then I travel into the zone. I can then take the whole, harvested deer back out of the zone). Deer harvested within the CWD management zone CAN NOT leave the zone without being deboned and all soft tissue removed from the hide and skull. If you harvest a deer in the management zone and it comes back negative for CWD, you still can not move the deer out of the zone. Only deboned meat, cleaned hides, or skulls/skull caps with soft tissue removed can leave the CWD management zone.
Currently the only mandatory deer harvest check is planned for December 9-10, 2023 in Holmes, Washington and Jackson Counties. This is during the added antlerless deer weekend for those counties. If you harvest a deer during this weekend, you will need to take it to one of the multiple check stations. For testing you will bring the whole deer (maybe field dressed) to the check station. They will collect additional information about the deer (age, etc.), as well as the needed sample for CWD testing. FWC will be posting the locations of those check stations later. Currently, testing time is expected to be approximately 30 days. FWC understands that 30 days is a long time to hold meat before processing and are working on ways to shorten that turnaround. There will be voluntary testing opportunities available within the CWD management zone throughout the entire hunting season. Current sampling goals call for an estimated 1000+ samples from the CWD Management Zone to determine an approximate prevalence of the disease in the area.
Changes to Antlerless Deer Harvest
Doe harvest has been extended to encompass the entire hunting general gun season. Meaning you may harvest a doe or antlerless deer during the dates where antlerless harvest was previously allowed in archery season (Oct. 21 – Nov. 22) and in muzzleloader season (Dec. 2-3) as well as during the entirety of the general gun season (Nov. 23-26, Dec. 9 – Feb. 18) However, THIS DOES NOT CHANGE BAG LIMIT. Each hunter is still only allowed to harvest two antlerless deer this season. Antlerless deer season dates have not changed for Wildlife Management Areas (public land) because those have their own regulations. DMU-D2 is the western and northern boundary is the Florida/Alabama line. The eastern boundary is U.S. 27. The southern boundary is Interstate 10.
The only change to antlerless deer or does during the season for D1 is that they can be harvested during the check station weekend on Dec. 9-10, but only in Holmes, Washington and Jackson Counties. This does not include Wildlife Management Areas. DMU-D1 is the western boundary is the Florida/Alabama line. The northern boundary is Interstate 10. The eastern boundary is Hwy 61 south to U.S. 319 to U.S Hwy 98, east along U.S. 98 to the Wakulla River, south along the river to St. Marks River and on to the Gulf of Mexico. The southern boundary is the Gulf of Mexico.
Deer harvested within the CWD management zone cannot be taken out of the management zone without proper cleaning. Deer should be caped out with a clean cape and the head or skull cap must be free of soft tissue before leaving the CWD management zone. Deer harvested outside the CWD management zone do not have to be handled differently from past seasons.
Deer harvested within the CWD management zone cannot be taken to a processor outside the management zone without being fully cleaned and deboned. Deer harvested outside the CWD management zone can be brought into the zone for processing without being cleaned or deboned.
The FWC is asking anyone who sees a sick, abnormally thin deer or finds a deer dead from unknown causes to call the CWD hotline, 866-CWD-WATCH (866-293-9282) and report the animal’s location. If you need any clarification for the rule changes, bag limit updates or other matters related to the upcoming hunting season please feel free to reach out.